Survival of Douglas-fir provenances in Austria: site-specific late and early frost events are more important than provenance origin

Location of the analyzed Douglas-fir provenance trials in Austria (A) including their mean juvenile survival rate across all provenances. Locations of provenance origin in Northwestern North America planted in the Austrian trials (B)

Autumn and spring frost events caused wide variation in the survival of juvenile Douglas-fir in Austrian forest sites located in the transition zone from Atlantic to continental climate. Survival rate can be optimized by planting provenances originating from an altitudinal belt of 500–1400 m in North America. Neither the variety nor the climate of origin of planted Douglas-fir provenances influence its response to frost events.

Context Understanding the risks of frost during late spring and early autumn is crucial for planting non-native Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii [Mirbel] Franco) as an alternative tree species under climate change in Europe.
Aims We investigate the role of early and late frost events on the survival of juvenile Douglas-fir and tested whether survival depends on seed origin.
Methods With data from 19 provenance trials across Austria, we modeled the effects of early and late frost events on juvenile survival rate, accounting for random variations due to site condition and provenance origin.
Results Wide variations (37–93%) in the juvenile survival rate of Douglas-fir were mainly driven by early and late frost events (daily Tmin < 0 °C), summer drought, and continentality. Juvenile survival declined with an increasing number of frost events within the observation period and prevailing warm spells preceding the frost events. The seed origin of the tested provenances had a minor effect and was related to the altitude, but not to the variety or the climate of provenance origin.
Conclusion For planting Douglas-fir in the transition zone from Atlantic to continental climates, typical in Austrian forests, the local site conditions and the probability of the occurrence of early and late frosts should be considered, while provenance selection should rather focus on productivity.

Climate change, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Provenance trial, Extreme events, Early frost, Late frost, Survival

Chakraborty, D., Matulla, C., Andre, K. et al. Annals of Forest Science (2019) 76: 100.

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Data availability
The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are available in the Figshare repository (Chakraborty et al. 2018) at

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